By John Sollitto
As a videogame journalist, professionalism is important. Oh, man, I can’t even type that with a straight face. But seriously, when trying to be a suave man or woman in the journalistic world who can make connections and get the scoop, you have to be someone that others can trust and depend on to get the job done. That’s basically a given, right?
What you SHOULDN’T do, is lie your ass off to someone you may potentially interview someday after you’ve snuck into E3 wearing a badge with someone else’s name on it. You know, just as a basic rule.
On a gloriously muggy Friday of summer, just as I was about to go to work at my dad’s shop, I turn my phone on and find that I have several messages from a friend of mine. Deciding to listen to them while I got dressed, I stopped midway between pants on and shirt half over my head when I heard the words “spare,” “E3,” and “badge.”
I quickly called him back and thanked the Force that he still had the badge but if I was going to get it from him I needed to hit Warp 9 and get there as fast as possible. I called my dad, told him the situation, and he said, “Oh! Yeah you should go. Make sure to get some cash for yourself and have fun!” I love my dad. Sometimes working for him isn’t a picnic but he really supports me in this whole fake videogame journalism career.
So I get to LA in record time and find my way to the convention center and eventually make my way to the place I was supposed to meet my friend. He told me he’d be out in a couple minutes so I had to hang tight and wait. That wouldn’t have been so bad had security not been giving me the stink-eye the whole time I was waiting outside the roped off area. To combat the awkward starting, I did what any other sane person would do in that situation: I pretended to get a call from my friend and fake talk to him until he got there.
Oh, don’t look at me like that. You’ve done it. We’ve ALL done that. So shush. My friend finally came out and we did the man-hug thing and he handed me the badge. There was the kicker. The badge had some sort of French/Lebanese name on it. I won’t give the name away to protect the guy whose badge it was but let’s pretend it said Jauqes-Renee Kareem. Like that? I sure do.
Now, I’m an Italian-American and I don’t look like a French-Lebanese person, but I thought, “What the hell, no one will call me on it.” I took the badge, as well as some of my friend’s business cards to pass out to people should there be someone to give it to.
I’d never been to E3 prior to this, but I’ve been going to the San Diego Comic Con longer than I can remember, so I wasn’t shocked so much as a little lost in this new convention center. I also realized I had no plan to see anything, no map, and I’d missed all the panels so I was basically just walking around until I figured I’d hit the G4 booth up and see some of my friends that I made when I was an intern there last semester. Yeah, no big deal.
After texting a couple of people and being told that they wouldn’t arrive until later, I just stood there and watched some of the filming. One of the writers of X-Play recognized me and brought me on to set, like a boss, past all the ropes and security.
A couple of the guys on set laughed at my badge and we made a few cracks and I watched some filming for a while before I remembered my friend’s business cards. Blair Herter, one of the nicest guys in the world (seriously, he offered to give me his couch for free when he was moving), said I should talk to one of the guys on set and pass it to him. We walked over to Blain, that was the guy’s name, and I immediately saw he was talking to someone important.
Not just someone important, David Freakin’ Jaffe. You know, the guy who made Twisted Metal and God of War? One of the gods of Sony? That guy. So I’m standing there waiting my turn to talk to Blain, listening to their conversation, when David Jaffe turns and looks me straight in the eye and holds out his hand saying, “By the way, I really liked Alpha Protocol.”
I kinda froze at this point and realized what had happened. Apparently, on Jaques-Renee Kareem’s badge it said he worked for Obsidian Entertainment, which would explain how my friend got the badge because we know a lot of people from that company. Obsidian made Alpha Protocol. Therefore, badge + company + me = I worked on the game. This must have been David Jaffe’s thought process. My thought process was something like, “Oh f*ck oh f*ck oh f*ck whatdoIdo whatdoIdo?”
Now, as I said, I’d never been to E3 before so I didn’t know if someone found out I wasn’t really Jaques-Renee Kareem that they wouldn’t throw me out or something. But I figured that might actually happen. Also, I didn’t want to smile and shake David Jaffe’s hand and make him look dumb by saying, “Oh I don’t work for Obsidian I just snuck in here and my friend’s got me on set.” Cause, like, when has honesty ever worked for anybody right? So I got ready to lie.
Thankfully David went on talking about how much he liked that game and then set the conversation up for me to talk, whereupon I began to repeat basically all the things my friends from Obsidian had said about the game and how they felt about it. Funny thing though, I did it all with a French accent.
What, like David Jaffe was gonna call me out for not having an accent with a name like Jaques-Renee? Like I couldn’t come up with a clever cover story like, “Oh I was born and raised in America but my folks are foreigners.” So, as I blathered on about Alpha Protocol and sounded like some sort of perverse French stereotype, David listened politely and nodded. Blain was looking at me like I was having some kind of bizarre stroke since he actually KNEW me. The worst part? David Jaffe’s assistant or friend or handler or girlfriend or whatever? She was on to me. She KNEW man. I mean, she was looking at me like she could tell that I was so full of sh*t my eyes were brown. I took all my strength NOT to look at her because if I did I would stutter.
After David and I finished up, I gave Blain the cards and went to hyperventilate in a corner. Now, I don’t make a habit of impersonating people, but when I do? I go big or go home, apparently. The moral of this story? Honesty is the best policy. I bet if David and I ever met again I would tell him this story and he’d never remember any of it. But if I had told him at the time what went down he probably would have laughed. Me? It haunts me to this day that I might actually meet Jauqes-Renee Kareem at some point and find out he’s just some white guy who has foreign parents. Either way, don’t lie to people as a journalist. It’s just bad.